Elephants Who Used To Give Rides And Put On Shows Finally Get To Relax

Some people are finally getting it: Elephant rides are not fun for elephants. They are really just part of a lifetime of cruelty for these animals, who are often stolen from the wild when they're very young.

And businesses are starting to realize that elephant rides are turning people off.

Saiyok Elephant Park, formerly an elephant trekking company, is now known as Elephant Haven Thailand. The park, which used to offer rides on its worn-down elephants, now lets tourists simply coexist with the animals.

The park transformed to a sanctuary in August last year when its owner decided to join a "saddle-off project" led by Lek Chailert, founder of Elephant Nature Park (ENP), encouraging elephant parks all across Thailand to change for the good of elephants.

"Lek is prolific and reaches out to help other projects when she can," a spokesperson for ENP told The Dodo.

Tourists who would once ride elephants, now help feed and care for them.

"[T]he elephant[s] in this camp will enjoy their freedom," Elephant Haven Thailand posted to Facebook in March. "No more riding an elephants, No more shows to entertain people."

"[W]e can become a good model," Elephant Haven Thailand wrote, "to show other elephant trekking camp[s] to change the way to treat elephants. Our dream is [to] provide a better life for elephant[s] because the elephant is SOMEONE NOT SOMETHING."

And visitors are raving about the new, more humane model.

"Prepared elephant food, then walked in the forest and watched them eat and cared for," one person wrote on TripAdvisor. "After an excellent vegan lunch we bathed them in the river which was an amazing experience. The perfect way to experience such beautiful and gentle creatures!"

What Elephant Haven Thailand is doing is definitely a step in the right direction.